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Posts tagged with: health issues

Ashley’s Year In Review (2015)

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I know we’re now a full week into the new year, but I always like to look back and reflect on the previous year around this time. So indulge me in a week-late review of some of the big highlights of 2015.

Personal and Financial Goals

The year began (or really was preceded by) setting some big goals. We had one list of financial goals, and a second list of goals related to “growing up” (in my mind this meant doing things like getting wills, life insurance, etc.). By the end of the year we hadn’t quite met all of our financial goals, but we’d made incredible progress. In all, we paid off over $26,000 in debt!!! We did even better on our “year of becoming an adult” goals. We fully accomplished 3 of our 4 goals and are well underway on the 4th goal (see update here). We’ve set some pretty lofty financial goals for 2016, too!

Budgeting

In early January, we made some pretty big changes to the way we did our budget. This eventually lead us to using YNAB for budgeting (we’d previously used an Excel file). I still can’t say enough great things about YNAB. I really think it’s made a huge impact on how well we’ve been able to stick to our budget and, therefore, how well we’ve done with paying off debt (see my full review here).

One of the categories in our budget that we really struggled with this year was our grocery budget. I talked several times about our efforts to make cheap meals, saving money by making homemade yogurt (super easy and so tasty!), DIY-ing pumpkin spice coffee (a personal fave), and trying my hardest to meal plan (which was much easier when I worked from home compared to an office-setting, and I’m still learning to balance competing needs).

I also saved a lot of money on self-maintenance this year. With the exception of 2 professional cut/colors (which I did prior to big job interviews), I’ve saved money in our budget by cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 21 months (but who’s counting? hehe). I’ve even received compliments on my self-maintained hair and really like my new darker color. To be transparent, I did just barely receive a professional cut/color from my Mom as a birthday gift, so this totals 3 professional jobs (only 2 that I personally paid for) in nearly 2 years.

Employment

I interviewed for 3 separate jobs in 2015:  one in January (recap), one in March, and one in June. I was offered the third job (third times a charm!) and accepted the position soon thereafter. I started the position in July and have been very happy in the job ever since (though I have plans to try to negotiate for a title change and more money).

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Gift-Giving

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Before I started our debt reduction mission we really spent a ton of money on gift-giving. Since starting to blog here, I’ve drastically reduced the amount spent on gifts. I now try to spend an average of about $15-20 per gift (though hubs and I set a $50 limit on gifts to each other). I talked about a cheap classroom gift here and waxed poetic about the impact of a hand-written thank you note (as opposed to an expensive flower delivery). I also talked about a cheap going away gift basket, a cheap Mother-in-Law (or grandparent) gift, an inexpensive alternative wedding gift, and relatively inexpensive ($50 limit) anniversary gifts.

Kids Crafts

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The kids did lots of fun and cheap crafts this year. A sampling of crafts include: a  Valentine’s craft, a Mother’s Day craft, and an Easter craft. All of these doubled as cheap cards/gifts for family, too!

Entertainment

Our entertainment budget was really bare bones this year as we tried to funnel all our extra money toward debt. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun! I talked about a free family activity here and a free painting class (courtesy of Yelp Elite) here. I also shared how we got cheap Halloween costumes for the kids and had fun with a cheap-ish birthday day date for hubs’ 33rd birthday.

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Successes

In April we celebrated kicking hubs’ license fee debt to the curb! That left us with only the car loan, some medical debt, and the monstrous student loans to contend with. That same month I did a balance transfer of a higher-interest student loan (8.5%) to a 0% APR credit card to pay off one of my Navient student loans at a lower rate (just paid a 2% initiation fee). I also celebrated when we paid off another of my Navient student loans back in October. It’s no secret that I freaking hate Navient, so I can’t wait to rid them from my life!

Personal

In June I let you know something I’d been keeping a bit of a secret. I have a very close family member experiencing a debilitating illness for which there is no cure. I later told you all that the “close family member” is my father and divulged that his diagnosis is frontotemporal degeneration (a type of dementia). I had a rough time in regard to processing this information. I was painfully honest about the scary feelings and emotions experienced knowing that his health is quickly declining and my siblings and I will be tasked with becoming his caretaker and all of the other financial implications of the situation. I also discussed prioritizing the costs of therapy so I could take care of myself. I never updated, but I did in fact search for therapists but there was only one person who really stood out to me as a good fit. Of course, that person was not accepting new clients at the time and, feeling overwhelmed by life, the new job, etc., I never pursued any other options. To be honest, I do think I’ll try again to find someone to talk to in the New Year. I feel like I am in a much better place mentally than I was when I first wrote this post (or this one, too), but I know my Dad’s health issues will continue to be a HUGE deal in my life and I would like to see someone at least occasionally to help me process everything as his disease progresses.

Summary

2015 was a wild year! Lots of great successes – Can I get a high five for that $26,000+ of debt that was paid off!?! and some tough times, too. In 2016 we plan to split our priorities a bit between saving for a house and continuing to pay off debt, but I know that we’ll continue to make great progress along the way. I’ve admitted before that I may loosen up the purse strings slightly. I think it’s important to have more regular date nights and such. But I also can’t wait to make some big dents to our debt this year. This will be the first full year of me having a full-time job and income (in addition to my part-time job & hubs’ job). With the additional money we really hope to do some crazy things in 2016. A house, a car (not a new one, but our current one being paid off), punching Navient in the nose, and so on. Great things ahead, friends! Thank you for joining me on life’s wild ride!


First Day and Family Drama

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Hi all! Thank you so much for all the well wishes for my first day of work (it was this past Monday) and all of your comments about our plans to start saving for a house after all our consumer debt is paid off (hopefully by December-ish). There were a TON of great comments and I plan to dedicate some posts specifically to the house topic in the future, but that will have to wait for another day.

Right now, indulge me a little in talking about my first few days of work!

To be 100% honest, the first day was….a little boring. I had to do a lot of administrative type stuff (getting a new employee ID card, submitting key request form to the key authorization office, filling out paperwork, ordering instructor textbooks, etc. etc. etc.).

Here I was ready and rearing to go (with a huge, long To Do list already compiled) and I ended up spending much of the day doing non-job related/administrative stuff. It was fine and I got a couple hours of “real” work in, but not what I’d expected.

So Tuesday I hit the ground running with about a 30-item To Do list and started knocking things out left and right. Wednesday was more of the same (along with several meetings), and now I feel like I’m chugging right along!

I will say that I feel a real struggle in regard to spending. On my first day I bought lunch (even though I’d made and brought a lunch with me), Tuesday I bought a soda, and Wednesday I had to fight the urge to buy a Starbucks on the way to campus. At least I’m aware of the temptation to spend, so I’m trying to psychologically combat the urge. Eventually I’ll build a little stockpile of sodas and snacks in my office so the urge isn’t as strong. Right now I’m in a temporary office so I’ve been holding off on bringing a lot of stuff in just yet. My new office is supposed to be painted soon – hopefully! (The bureaucracy in academia is alive and well because I’ve been told it could take up to a month until the painting is completed due to permissions, other building/maintenance work orders, etc.). After that’s done I’ll officially “move in.”

I know we’re still only a couple days into the new job, but one big surprise is that it hasn’t been as hard emotionally/psychologically to leave the girls at preschool as I’d anticipated. I thought I’d be a wreck driving to campus but – nope! And they seem perfectly happy too, which certainly helps. Right now they’re still at the JCC but we switch to our new preschool in mid-August so we’ll see how that transition goes.

Work stuff aside, I’ve got to say I’ve been dealing with additional family health-related drama lately. I really wish I could just gush all the details to you guys because – as weird as it seems – you do feel like friends in a sense (and I get SO MANY helpful comments!!! I’d love to pick your brains on the health issues). But I want to maintain my father’s privacy so…..yeah. Just…stuff sucks. I hate what he’s going through. I don’t like that I’ve been thrust into the role of caregiver. It’s hard to be someone’s advocate from across state lines. And just the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo.

I’m going back next week for another doctor’s appointment. Again – the devils in the details and, unfortunately, I just can’t divulge his personal info. But you can imagine. Lots of stress. Anxiety. And so on.

I don’t believe we’ll be getting an official diagnosis yet – there’s one more scan the doctor wanted to order but its very expensive so insurance only covers it once everything else has been eliminated (and my Dad’s had many, many appointments the past couple weeks). But this is the appointment with the head honcho specialist so my siblings and I feel it’s important for someone to be there. I was elected. My sister will probably go back for the diagnosis, and my brother will likely be the one to go retrieve my father if/when its time for him to move closer to family. So at least we’re trying to share the burden (not that my father is a burden by any means, but you know what I’m saying. We all work, have families, etc. so logistics are difficult).

In terms of finances, I believe that my Dad will reimburse me for my flight expense (like he did last time). This time I’ll be flying in and out in a single looooooong day (flight there departs Tucson at 6:00am, return flight lands back in Tucson at 10:30pm). I know there are businesses people who do this type of commute all the time, but this is my very first out-and-back in a single day type excursion. I’m grateful its worked out this way since now I have a job I’m expected to be at, but I also wish I was going to be there a bit longer. The logistics of what the future holds (selling two separate properties in two separate states; clearing out said properties, etc.) makes my head ache. I know surely others have been in a similar spot before. Words of advice or encouragement? I know its hard without knowing specifics, but you can kind of read between the lines a bit I’m sure.

One thing I’ll say about this new job (sorry to jump around on topics), is that it has made my days feel extremely long! I’ve been waking up at 5am to have time to get a quick jog, shower, dress, make lunches (for me & the girls), make breakfast (for me & the girls), do dishes and general clean-up, wake the girls, get ready, go to preschool, go to work/school, back to preschool, home, cook, eat, clean dishes, do a load of laundry, baths, girls to bed, more work (for part-time job), then bed for me and hubs. I’m definitely not complaining! I’ve been so, so lucky to work from home part-time for the past 3 years with a killer make-my-own schedule so its just an adjustment. Not bad (no “poor me” attitude here! Still super psyched about the job!), just different. One huge perk of working in academia is that we tend to have more flexible schedules than other professions. Right now I’m here all day every day working furiously on prep, but once things settle down a bit and we get into a routine during the semester I think I’ll have more flexibility to run out if I have a doctor’s appointment, or whatever. But for the time being, I’ve turned into a super-planning ninja! I have to be in order to have food for dinner every night (as opposed to ordering take-out). It’s also a good transition, but still a transition nonetheless. Really, I like being back in the world of the gainfully full-employed. There were perks to the work-from-home part-time thing, too, but I really feel this is where I belong. : )